Thursday, August 11, 2011

Opponents have their say at information booth

The on line version of the Montana article below has a nice photo of Bradley Williams, the Coordinator of Montanans Against Assisted Suicide & For Living with Dignity.  His letter to the editor, submitted today, corrects the assertion that assisted suicide is legal in Montana.
By MARIELLE GALLAGHER for the Missoulian | Posted: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 2:11 pm

The Commercial Building at the Western Montana Fair has a new booth: Montanans Against Assisted Suicide.

According to its website, Montanans Against Assisted Suicide and For Living With Dignity "welcome(s) everyone opposed to assisted suicide, regardless of your views on other issues." 

In 2009, physician aid in dying was ruled legal by the Montana Supreme Court. The group's goal at the fair is making assisted suicide illegal in Montana. Regardless of one's opinion on the subject, the attention the booth has already begun to receive at the fair is undeniable.

Bradley Williams currently coordinates the effort. This includes tasks as large as a trip to a legislative session to discuss his cause, which he describes as being "full of representatives who were receptive, gracious, and sincere," and as small as manning the organization's booth at the fair, where he offers information on the case against assisted suicide.

This is a huge shift from Williams' involvement three years ago. He first took notice of the issue in 2008, when a state judge declared that dying with dignity was a constitutional right and physicians could prescribe lethal doses of medication to terminally ill, mentally competent patients.

"I thought a citizen's duty was to pay taxes, vote, attend jury duty," said Williams. "But that was the catalyst that made me realize it was also important to be involved in public discourse."

Physician-assisted suicide is currently legal in Oregon and Washington as well as Montana.

According to Williams, the definition of someone who is terminally ill - and thus eligible for assisted suicide - is too broad, and the potential for elder abuse too great, for aid in dying to be legal.

One of the arguments used by proponents of the cause is that allowing someone to suffer unnecessarily is inhumane. Williams counters that "the science of pain control is developing as quickly as computer technology."

Tuesday afternoon, the first day of the fair, a woman approached the booth and began looking through a list of talking points lying on the table. Several more people paused to look over the information.

Marielle Gallagher is a Midway Dispatch reporter for the Missoulian and a Hellgate High School junior. She can be reached at